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Disney Invests $1.5B in Epic for New Metaverse Venture

Disney makes a significant entry into the gaming and metaverse industries with a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games for a new “persistent universe.” 

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The Walt Disney Company released a press release that explains the deal’s two main components. First, Disney and Epic Games have partnered strategically to develop an ‘all-new games and entertainment universe’ featuring Disney IPs and characters.

The second segment is the investment itself, pending regulatory approval and making Disney a shareholder in Epic Games. Interestingly, Disney has stated that the recently announced “universe” will be “interoperating” with the popular game Fortnite. This entails using Fortnite’s world-building and map-making features to create Disney-focused metaverse experiences.

Project Details

Subject to regulatory approval, the multi-layer project will operate within Fortnite’s framework. Characters and stars from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar properties will be incorporated into the universe. The project in addition seeks to revolutionize interactive entertainment using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, which is well-known for its state-of-the-art technology.

Disney CEO Robert A. Iger expressed enthusiasm for the partnership. He said the exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring Disney’s beloved brands, franchises, and hugely popular Fortnite into a transformational new games and entertainment universe. 

According to him, this marks Disney’s most extensive entry into the game world and offers significant growth and expansion opportunities. He said they can’t wait for fans to experience the Disney stories and worlds they love in groundbreaking new ways.”

Prior partnerships

With a history of working on large-scale projects, Epic Games has collaborated with industry giants like Sony and Lego Group to develop immersive experiences. Significantly, the partnership gave birth to Lego Fortnite, demonstrating Epic Games’ track record of innovation and collaboration in the gaming industry. 

The company additionally launched its NFT-powered digital game on the Epic Games marketplace in 2022.

Speaking on the collaboration with Disney, the CEO and founder Tim Sweeney said that Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with theirs in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio. They are collaborating on something new to build a persistent, open, and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities.

Sweeney has always been optimistic about the metaverse. Previously, he refuted reports of its collapse and emphasized its continued existence by citing 600 million monthly active users across several metaverses as of May 2023.

Layoffs at Epic Games

The announcement follows a wave of layoffs at Epic Games that impacted other well-known esports brands, most notably Psyonix’s Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS). 

Epic Games’ recent financial infusion may impact their esports endeavors. Nevertheless, neither Disney nor Epic Games highlighted esports as a future area of interest in their original announcements and pronouncements.

Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Experiences, however commented on the news that this will enable them to bring together their incredible collection of stories and experiences from across the company for a broad audience in ways they have only dreamed of. He in addition said that Epic Games’ industry-leading technology and Fortnite’s open ecosystem will help them reach consumers where they are so they can engage with Disney in the most relevant ways.